Sunday 15 December 2019

Six Week Dad Bod challenge: How much more can my ageing body take?

Getting out of bed gave Dave Robbins a bad back - but it wasn't enough to save him from Pat's punishing regime

Progress: Dave Robbins has lost an additional four pounds this week. Photo: Caroline Quinn.
Progress: Dave Robbins has lost an additional four pounds this week. Photo: Caroline Quinn.
Bicep curls 2
Peck Deck 1
Peck Deck 2
Crunches 1
Crunches 2.

Dave Robbins

How far can you push the body of an ageing, overweight dad? Not that far, as it turns out. Midway through Week 5 of my Lose the Dad Bod challenge, I pull a muscle in my back. It happens just as I step out of bed the morning after doing a new, tougher weights programme with trainer Pat Henry.

It's something that used to happen often enough during my rugby-playing days. Back then, it would heal itself overnight. Ah, those were the days. This time, it's still there the next morning.

I rub something called Biofreeze into my lower back. Freeze? It's like having someone apply a blowtorch to the lumbar region. At least the sensation distracts from the pain, but it doesn't really help.

There is, however, an upside to this. It means I miss the second session of my new weights workout. Considering what happened at the first session, I am quite relieved.

Pat Henry is a master of his art. I've mentioned before his ability to sum up a client in a single glance. I often think about what he said to me when he first met me: "You've a good strong build. Your ideal weight is 13-and-a-half stone."

He also knows when your body has grown used to a certain set of exercises. After a while, the workout becomes manageable. Sure, you break sweat doing it, but you're not really pushing yourself.

That's when Pat says the dreaded words: "Let's change it up." This week, he swapped my dumbbells for free weights - two 7.5kg weights on a bar weighting maybe 2.5kg. The exercises were similar to the dumbbell workout: 20 reps of each exercise, no stopping, and a run around Fitzwilliam Square between sets.

"The fastest time for this - three sets and three laps - is 23 minutes," he says. I look at him in disbelief. I'm thinking it'll take me at least 45 minutes. "And that was by a 55-year-old."

See? There's always that little prod to do it better, faster, stronger. As I head out for my lap of the square, he says: "The record is one minute 30 seconds." I take three minutes 30 seconds.

The increase in the weights I'm lifting makes the exercises more arduous, but the change from dumbbells to a weight-lifting bar transforms the workout altogether. How can such a small tweak make the reps so much tougher? "It works the muscle in a different way," explains Pat. For "different" read "agony".

The next morning, I strain my back getting out of bed. I still manage to do the cardio workout for that day. "Rotate backwards on the cross-trainer," advises Pat. "It eases out the lower back." The day after, my back is still sore, so I get a pass from Pat. It's the first day I have missed in five weeks. I feel surprisingly guilty, like a kid who has pretended to be sick so as to get a day off school.

However, it seems the changes to the diet and the tweak to the weights routine have worked: at yesterday's weigh-in, I have dropped four pounds to 14st 6lbs, a full stone down on when I started.

I shake Pat's hand as I step down off the weighing scales. I think I'll celebrate with, oh I don't know, a square of chocolate or a kumquat or something. "Keep on the salads for the last week," says Pat.

They say there is a lesson in everything that happens to you in life. So what have I learned from this? Don't get out of bed.

This week: 3 key exercises

Bicep curls: Stand with feet wide apart and arms extended out to side, elbows in line with shoulders.

Curl weights in towards shoulders keeping elbows in line with shoulders and return to start position

Peck-deck: Stand with feet wide apart and arms out to the side at right angles with one another. Bring arms in towards each other to meet in the centre of the chest, joining elbows and wrists together and repeat.

Crunches: Lying with your back flat on the floor, knees bent and feet flat on the ground hip-width apart. Grip weights with both hands and extended arms back over head. Bring arms forward and at the same time, sit up enough to lift the chest and shoulders off the floor, roll back and repeat

While Dave’s exercise routine consist of more than 18 exercises, each week we’ll show you how to do three. See

Irish Independent

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